Rhyme Time: a how-to

A dozen or so years ago, faced with teaching Kindergarten for the first time ever, I was at a complete loss.  What to do with 5 year olds in a school library for 40 minutes?  What would benefit their development as readers?  What would be developmentally appropriate?

Thinking and brainstorming about how to structure the class led me to two ideas.  One: use author studies to structure our reading time.  Two: use nursery rhymes to build pre-reading skills.

Best. Ideas. Ever.

Nursery rhymes are well-known as one way to build reading readiness.  Chanting rhymes as a group, discovering words that sound the same, brainstorming other words that have the same sounds is a powerful tool toward building readers.  By displaying the printed rhyme and modeling the left-to-right, top-to-bottom patterns of reading, children get pre-reading skills without a formal “lesson”.  And this can be included as part of the elementary library program.

With the beginning of the year as a time to teach expectations and basic behaviors (where to sit, how to check out, where to sit after checking out, etc), Rhyme Time is usually begun in week 4/5/6 of the school year.  By this point of the year, children (mostly) know how to come into the library, sit down, and be ready for the lesson.

Back in my public librarian days, I created a flip chart with handwritten nursery rhymes, including both well-known and more esoteric offerings, as part of infant Lapsit and Toddler Time.  It’s this same chart that I’ve used ever since. To begin, I model “rhyme time fingers” (like spirit fingers).  These wiggling fingers serve two purposes: they let kids move, and they show which children are ready.  Counting aloud, patting the beat on my legs, I model chanting the rhyme by myself.  On a second run-through, students join in.

The first time we do Rhyme Time, 2 nursery rhymes are introduced.  At least one is a rhyme they should know (like Humpty Dumpty) and one they may not know (like To Market To Market). The goal is to work up to 3 rhymes each week, which are repeated for 6-8 weeks before retiring them for new rhymes.

There are variations and extensions to Rhyme Time that can be included, should the group be ready.  Some weeks, brainstorm more words that rhyme (like in Humpty Dumpty, we notice that WALL and FALL rhyme…but ask if they know any other words that rhyme with those two – like BALL, ALL, CALL, etc). Some weeks, kids will create body movements that match the rhyme.  Sometimes, have a student lead the rhymes.  It’s formally flexible instruction. 🙂

Curious as to how it looks in action?  This is week 1 of Rhyme Time a few years ago.

Cheers, y’all!  –arika

Library Lessons: Aug 28-Sep 1, 2017

Week 2!

New this week: students were assigned individual iPads as part of their tech. Hearing this inspired the activity for grades 3&4.

PreK:

No library this week, as there was an all-day LEGO community build on Thursday. Six hours of building, assisting, & supervision for all grades PreK-4.

K/Grade 1

Warm up: the name song (repeated from Week 1).

Continuing with bears & SEL in the library, I shared Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Dog and Bear: two friends, three stories. This has always been a hit with the young crowd, and this week was no exception.

Our white board introduced a new symbol:

Part of my summer professional reading was Disrupting Thinking by Kyleen Beers & Robert Proust. Inspired by their Book-Head-Heart questioning strategy, I tweaked it to become Book-Brain-Heart. Because it was our first time seeing this strategy and it was with the K/1 students, only one icon was introduced. I believe that you go slow to ultimately go fast, especially in teaching new strategies.

Our questions today were to inspire the BRAIN to connect the story with our SEL expectations of Be Kind, Be Safe, Do Your Best, Help the Rest. The students were asked to think of ways Dog and Bear were KIND or SAFE in their stories. After each short story, we stopped and had turn-and-talk discussions with knee-neighbors to share how either Dog or Bear was KIND or SAFE. Interestingly, the children also expanded their discussion to include how they HELPED THE REST.

Self-checkout was better than before, and most children remembered their books. If they didn’t and they still wanted a book, it was allowed.

Grade 2:

Stories with a SEL focus was today’s objective.  Inspired by the Mood Meter from Yale’s RULER SEL curriculum, I created & introduced the emoji Mood Meter. It looks fun and kicked off our discussion: we talked about what the emoji’s might mean, how moods can change throughout the day, and how – if we were OK – we’d feel.  Being OK isn’t bad or good – it’s medium, it’s OK. This led to our story: Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s The OK Book, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.

Side note: AmyKR is a favorite-favorite of mine.  Share books that you love. Your joy shines through.  Faking excitement or interest in a book? Kids can tell.

While reading, if students agreed with the character that they, too, were OK at ___, they tapped their head three times. This means “I know this” or “I agree here”. Lots of children were OK at kite-flying (must be the wind in London)!

After the story, students were asked to respond to a question on a sticky note: What are you OK at?  These were attached to their library passes so they could be easily distributed. 🙂  In the future, I hope to use Padlet and have kids use their iPads to respond to questions like this.

Grades 3&4:

Tech time! Somewhere in the readings or websites I’d seen in the first three weeks, I got the idea that a student survey was a requirement for my evaluation process.  Some Pinterest searches provided inspiration for our Reading / Library Survey.

Other goals of the survey: to learn reading interests (to drive purchases), to discover likes and questions, and to informally observe/assess overall tech skill and typing comfort. Results to be analyzed in the next two weeks.

Overall, it went well…but there were learning moments.  Too many of my questions required typewritten answers for this group.  Some questions, which were included to learn a bit about the student as a person, weren’t well-received. Others were poorly worded.  Here’s the version I’d use in the future (note: it’s a google doc).

For those wondering how they got to the survey: a tinyurl of our Destiny website, where a link to the survey was placed, made the process fairly painless. If the iPads had a QR code scanner, we’d have done that. By going to the Destiny homepage, we made a shortcut link to the desktop to use in the future.  Storing surveys and weblinks in Destiny is easy and kid-friendly.  Symbaloo would also work.

Both 3rd and 4th also had an intro to the emoji Mood Meter, and 4th had booktalks as part of their hour-long library class.  Another lesson learned: booktalk first, survey second.

Phew. Busy week! Cheers, y’all! –arika

Library Lessons: Aug 21-21, 2017

Week 1, y’all! New year, new school…even new country!

This week, I channeled Tim Gunn from Project Runway.  “Make it work!”, he says.  So I did.

There was a lot of newness for the children, from self checkout to library passes to assigned seats to visible daily learnings.  And there was a lot of newness for me: teaching SIX grade levels (PreK-4), learning names, answering book questions like where to find horse fiction books (Wonder Horse worked for the student) and are there any Stuart Gibbs books (no), and more.  Here we go!

(PS: Read this if you’re curious about the behind-the-scenes work and decisions that went in to making Week 1 happen.)

PreK

Learning moment: the PreK children need a lot of stories, movement, songs, and activities…and 40 minutes is a LONG class for 4 year olds. I pulled a lot of tricks from the years of Read Aloud Tuesday at the Montessori preschool and my first library job doing Preschool Storytimes at the public library.

It’s not on the white board, but we warmed up with a name song.  Borrowed from my favorite music teacher Stephanie, it’s an echo song:  As we sit down – name cards are placed around the story area, helping with name recognition – I start to sing: “Hello PreK, Hello Ms. Arika”.  I change the pitch and volume during the singing, inviting them to sing along with me.  Once they’re seated, students hold their name cards in front of them and the song is sung: teacher – “Hello (name)”, student – “Hello Ms. Arika”. We’ll do this for months.

CATS were our first theme, if only because we have a Library Lion who joins us for our lessons.  He was found after we read Have You Seen My Cat? by Eric Carle (more about how I use stuffed animals with young students is here).  Pre-reading questions include: What kinds of cats to you know? What sounds do cats make? During the story, questions included: Where do you think the cat could be?

With the Library Lion found, I shared how he was being KIND by staying quiet during the story and being SAFE by keeping his paws and tail to himself. SEL starts early!

Pete the Cat was the 2nd story, giving us more opportunities to sing. Lots of prediction questions in this one. We brought up SEL again: Pete DOES HIS BEST by keeping cool when he dirties up his shoes. No fits from Pete!

PreK did check out, though they selected from books on display or from book boxes.  They also learned the beginning parts of self checkout: having their library pass ready to be scanned first.

Kindergarten / Grade 1

 

Even though I used the Library Lion with the K/1st grades, the story Library Lion was too long for our first library class.  Otto the Book Bear was, however, the perfect length and full of opportunities for critical thinking.

Note that the K and 1 children also warmed up with the name song (described above), though it isn’t on our white board. This helps with learning student names and is a nice way to transition into the library.

During Otto, students were asked: How might Otto feel after his family moved away? What other places might Otto like to visit?

Students also observed how the end papers changed from the beginning of the book to the end. That they noticed this week 1 was great!

Self-checkout happened this week, too: I modeled how to use the library pass as a shelf marker, how to find the sticker barcode on the book, and how to go to the circ computer. Once there, more modeling/teaching was done to help children check out their own book(s).

Grade 2/3

One of my very favorites – School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson.  This was an apt choice, as our building is undergoing some serious construction. Every day, there is a cacophony as jack hammers, saws and more are worked in the room above the library (we’re in the basement).

This story gave us some great conversation regarding feelings: the building has emotion, and it changes depending on the situation. How very human! We worked on recognizing how the building felt and what may have caused the feeling.

Notice #4: Who are YOU? In building a community of learners, students were asked to send in a picture of their family or who they live with. We are all more than “just” a student or a teacher or a librarian: we are the product of our lives outside of school. On the same sheet, an overview of the library program was given for all grades, PreK-4th.  The photos sent in will be on display for Back to School Night.

Self-checkout happened, and students were informed of the new “take what you need” circulation policy. No limits on books, merely a request that children take what they’ll use in a week’s time.

Grade 4

Two stories: one fun, one serious, both which give opportunities to bring SEL into the library.

One self-centered rabbit who wants undivided attention, until something better comes along. One boy who feels invisible, until a new kid gives him the courage to reach out and feel valuable. Two different stories, two great conversations.

In You’re Finally Here, students were asked: What’s one word you’d use to describe the rabbit? Why?

In The Invisible Boy, students were asked: What do you think is worse – feeling invisible or being laughed at? Did Brian (the invisible boy) do anything to make himself invisible? Did he do anything to help become visible?  What choices do we have when we feel certain ways?

In future lessons, I hope to use these two titles to springboard Destiny book reviews.

At checkout time, students were pumped to utilize self checkout and the new “take what you need” library policy.  Interestingly, most children chose 2-3 books – though one chose 8, all on reptiles. There’s always one 🙂

With a new-to-me 60 minute library class (new for them, too), I decided to take a page from Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer and build in dedicated time for independent reading.  Under consideration is the 40 Book Challenge (if I can figure out a good way for 3 classes to track their work).  Children had 15 minutes of silent reading time. Win!

Cheers, y’all!  –arika

#LibrarianInLondon

It occurs to me that, though I updated my FB and Twitter and Instagram accounts, the blog was forgotten when it came to some big(ish) news.

I shared that as my husband’s job relocated our family to London, I left my school of 13 years.  Many, many tears were shed.  That school & community holds wonderful memories.  Moving forward, working professionally – specifically as an elementary librarian – was but a wish and a dream.  After all, how many library jobs are there in London?

Be careful what you wish for, folks.  It just might come true.

As crazy as it is to believe, I found a job lower-school librarian. And – as luck or destiny would have it – the job is at the school where my children enrolled.  They needed a lower-school librarian, as theirs was retiring.  I was in town, ready to work – heck, NEEDING to work to stay sane and happy.  Two interviews and a lengthy application later, and #LibrarianInLondon became real.

It’s hard to believe that I get the chance to learn and grow as a librarian at an international school. Sharing the learning, the growth, will continue – it already has:  Week 1 was only as successful as the behind-the-scenes work that went into it, and connecting with colleagues is some of the most valuable work I’ve done.

You’re invited to follow along with the growth, learning, lessons and more as I share using #LibrarianInLondon. If life is about growing and changing and adapting, I’m living the dream.

Cheers, y’all!  –arika

Week 1 in a new library: the behind-the-scenes work

Week 1 of 2017-2018 at my new school is in the books.  But before the lessons and teaching, here’s a bit about how I got there.  It is with careful thought and hard work that Week1 happens.  If you’re opening a new-to-you library, I get it: It is HARD and likely feels overwhelming, as though you don’t know where to start. Tears were shed as I struggled to learn the school culture, ramp up on the new technology AND sort the library.  But we must start.

DISPLAY

The library space is different this year, but notably in that there is no place for a mobile white board for lessons to be written (and I LOVE a white board) and no wall space.  There is an AppleTV, which will be used to display a daily PowerPoint of our lesson.  Sharing our daily plan gives students a heads-up on what is happening and often answers any questions (like “are we checking out today?”). It builds accountability to the library program.

CIRCULATION POLICIES

Something new I’m trying this year: a no-limits policy in regard to circulation.  Called “take what you need”, it allows children to do just that: take the books they need for the week. Some weeks, children need more books.  Some weeks, less.  Overall, it’s about meeting their needs and giving them full access to the library collection.  I’ve not done this before, though it’s been percolating for some time.  Look for a mid-year update on how this goes – especially in regard to getting books returned.

SELF CHECKOUT

Speaking of self-checkout: we’re going for it, even though it’s never been done in this school  I believe in giving students control over their own account, starting as young as possible. This hasn’t always been the case, but time has been a lovely teacher.  How does it work?  With preK/K/1st grades, I’ll be alongside them as we scan their barcode pass and their book(s) together, taking a moment to find their name on the computer screen.  With 2nd/3rd/4th grades, I’ll be nearby as they scan their own items. From past experience, it’s with a hushed awe that they’re “allowed” to do this by themselves.

LIBRARY PASSES

In order to facilitate self-checkout, children get library passes.  Constructed of heavy posterboard (railroad board), they’re about 3″x11″ in size and have the child’s name and barcode printed on an Avery sticker (the student barcode report can be exported in Destiny, sorted by homeroom). Passes are sorted by grade and color: grade K gets pink, 1 is aqua, 2 is green, etc.  Teacher names/numbers are written in pen in the upper corner to further sort. Some people laminate them to further their life, but I leave them as paper. The library pass doubles as a shelf-marker, too.

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING / LIBRARY RULES

Self-checkout gives children a chance to practice our most important words in the most meaningful way: they Do Their Best and Help the Rest. When someone is stuck, another child usually comes to the rescue.  If they forget the order of scanning (pass first, books second), a child often steps in to assist.  Building a community of engaged learners and kind helpers is the most important to the success of the library.  Social-emotional learning is vital to the success of my library program. I’ve “borrowed” the words from my former school to incorporate into my new library: 

These words are part of every lesson for every grade for the first two months.  They’re framed and displayed throughout the library.  We’ll use them as critical thinking stems as we begin to read and think about books. They’re ways to behave, both in school and in life.

Students and teachers often ask if there are any “library rules” aside from the phrases above.  The closest “rule” in the library is “Act Like You’re in a Library”. With an international community, it’s a chance to talk about if libraries are the same across the world.  Students will be asked to explain what these words mean to them.

COLLECTION MANAGEMENT

As for the books, there’s a lovely collection that’s been curated – from series to I Can Read titles to world languages to fiction to picture books and more.  On (good) problem: there’s no wiggle room on shelves and books are bursting out of closets, awaiting shelf-space.  Weeding is Job 1.  Along with weeding, books are being streamlined into fewer categories, rearranged, and given similar call numbers.  Library barcodes are to be in the same spot on all books.

All of this is done for one reason: to best meet the needs of the students.  Self-checkout is easier when a barcode is in the same spot every week.  Finding fiction/nonfiction titles is easier when they’re all in the same general location.  Books are easier to find when the shelves have some space in which to browse and display. Behavior is easier to manage when we’re all on the same page regarding expectations and value the social-emotional learnings.  The library experience and learning should be enjoyable and memorable because the child and his/her developmental need is at the heart of every decision.

Again, I write this to share that it’s with careful thought and hard work that Day 1 happens.  If you’re opening a new-to-you library, I get it: It is HARD and likely feels overwhelming, as though you don’t know where to start.  So pick one thing and START.  It’s not magic, and it’s not pretty.  It’s messy and sweaty and time-consuming. And it will take a long time.  But START.  You can do it.  And if I can help, please ask.

Cheers, y’all! –arika

New year, new school, new people

For the first time in a LONG time, the start of the school year was full of newness: new school, new staff, new library, new collection, new students.

Take a peek as to what I saw when I first walked in to the library:

The new library. Wish me luck! #librarianinlondon #hawkslslib #librariansofinstagram #library

A post shared by Arika Dickens (@ms.arika_) on

In one capacity, it’s super exciting: a chance to start anew.  But it’s also nerve-wracking.  Sftressful. Overwhelming.

It turns out that – aside from getting to remove a LOT of plastic – the two librarians at the middle and high school level are also new to the school. It just so happened that all three librarians turned over last year, and I’m kinda glad: we three came in together, went through new teacher training together, asked one another our rookie questions, and connected over librarian-only concerns (ordering! budgets! categories! organization! standards!).  And we bonded.  So when I feel stressed and overwhelmed, there are two people in my corner who get it, no questions asked.

Note to everyone: find your people.  Take time to build the relationships at the beginning of the year.  There’s never time to do it, but make the time.  It’s worth every minute.  Find the person or people to have in your corner who’ll have your back.  It’s a sanity-saver.

I continue to be thankful that I’m working in a lower-school capacity (grades PreK-4th).  The challenges of newness are mitigated by this age level, which plays to my strengths.

Lessons and ideas will continue on this blog.  They’ll look different – the London school has different technologies and databases, challenging me to plan and pre-plan differently than ever before. With all students having iPads, how can this be meaningfully incorporated? How do apps get added to student machines (like Tellegami and ChatterPix)?  With PebbleGo not part of the current database offerings (and I love PebbleGo!), how do I get approval to get the purchase done for this school year so that students & staff can research? And how do I manage, curate, and catalog a language collection that includes over 12 languages outside of English?

Welcoming international students is a new hurdle as well. The languages spoken are numerous, and I wanted to be as welcoming as possible.  Thanks to Hafuboti for the signage, which I posted on our exterior windows, incorporating some of the more popular languages of our students.

New year.  New challenges. Deep breath, folks.  It’s go time!

Cheers, y’all.  –arika

2017-2018 OTTER Award Nominees!

The OTTER Award – Our Time To Enjoy Reading – is sponsored by the Washington Library Association: School Libraries Division.  A newer book award established in 2015, the committee is pleased to announce the 2017-2018 nominated titles.

  • The Bad Guys: Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic Inc.)
  • Lola Levine Is Not Mean! by Monica Brown, illustrated by Angela Dominguez (Little, Brown)
  • The Great Pet Escape (Pets on the Loose) by Victoria Jamieson (Macmillan/Henry Holt)
  • The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Matt Myers (Candlewick)
  • I am Jane Goodall by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Penguin/Dial)
  • All Paws On Deck (Haggis and Tank Unleashed) by Jessica Young, illustrated by James Burks (Scholastic Inc.)

The goal of the OTTER Award is to highlight titles that encourage children to continue reading as they transition from picture books to longer chapter books.  Our motto is “books kids like, not books adults think kids should like”, and student feedback is taken into consideration when selecting the nominees.  A maximum of six titles are selected each year.  Nominated books should include developmentally-appropriate content, vocabulary, layout, and appeal.  Voting occurs in late April, and children should read at least two of the titles on the list. The winning title is announced in May.  For more information, please visit www.wla.org/the-otter-award.

Official press release: OTTER-press-release-2018